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Top 7 Small Business Trends To Know for 2022

Couple shopping online from a small business

Throughout 2020 and 2021, many small businesses endured extraordinary hardships to keep their doors open. With all its challenges — the COVID-19 pandemic, the turmoil over nationwide social justice protests, an acrid and divisive election cycle, labor shortages, and numerous natural disasters — the last two years were some of the most difficult for small businesses in history.

The years' disruptions led many business owners to adapt to the times and operate with impressive levels of flexibility. As 2022 gathers momentum, new small business trends are both anticipated and expected. Understanding these upcoming business trends can help small businesses prepare for new challenges while accepting that the employee and customer landscape has likely been permanently altered. Here are seven small business trends to know for 2022.

Notable Small Business Trends in 2022

While the larger societal issues impacted the business environment in dramatic ways, seven distinct business trends emerged in the workplace and among customers. These are:

  1. Increased focus on sustainability
  2. E-commerce as a major focus
  3. Alternative payment options will be sought after
  4. Customer service will need to be personalized and empathetic
  5. Businesses with virtual and digital services will continue to be in demand
  6. Remote work will continue
  7. Consumers will support small businesses

1) Increased Focus on Sustainability

In a growing response to catastrophic weather events, multiple oceanic garbage patches, the increasing rate of extinction, and the seven hottest annual global average temperatures recorded in the past seven, consecutive years since 1880, consumers are concerned. What does that mean for employers regarding small business trends 2022? A September 2021 survey conducted by the National Retail Foundation (NRF) and IBM found that 62% of the 19,000 survey respondents are willing to change their purchasing habits to reduce their environmental impact. On the hiring side, nearly 68% of employees reported they are more likely to apply for jobs with environmentally responsible organizations, with 48% willing to accept a lower salary.

Employers are responsible for implementing meaningful change in their business practices to reduce the environmental impact of their business model. Look for opportunities to reduce the energy consumption and greenhouse gas output of your supply chain, assess your internal practices to reduce waste, embrace remote or hybrid workplaces for employees, and evaluate your own business's long-term environmental impacts in the form of packaging and product lines. Ultimately, these are measures that can help your business gain a hiring advantage and increase its own resiliency through being more efficient and responsive to environmental pressures.

2) E-Commerce Remains Important in the Hybrid Shopping Method

The pandemic accelerated a shift from brick-and-mortar stores to digital shopping. From groceries to clothing and other consumer goods, shopping entirely online with the option of home delivery or curbside pickup gives customers convenience, efficiency, and increased peace of mind over personal safety. However, now that we are two years into our new normal, consumers' shopping habits are shifting. Whether driven by increased awareness to reduce monetary and carbon costs associated with shipping, support their local economy, or engage with others, consumers are embracing a hybrid approach to shopping. This includes interchanging visits to brick-and-mortar stores, using mobile apps, and shopping online to make choices that support their needs and beliefs.

To ensure success, small business owners should make sure they have a mobile-friendly, easy-to-navigate website with e-commerce options that allow consumers to quickly find what they want and purchase products or services from their mobile devices. As many as 72% of consumers rely on stores as their primary buying method, according to the 2021 NRF survey. Look for ways to continue the convenience of blending the two such as curbside pickups, and make sure your in-store customer service leaves customers with a positive experience.

3) Customers Will Continue To Seek Alternative Payment Options

When it comes to how people pay for goods and services, the pandemic has been both a disrupter and a catalyst in how money is exchanged. In the last two years, businesses have moved toward alternative payment options (e.g., mobile pay applications, contactless credit, and debit cards). Contactless payment options will not be going away in 2022. In fact, small business owners should be prepared for the demand to increase in the form of applications, cryptocurrencies, mobile wallets, and wearable devices. If they haven't already done so, it's critical that small businesses research contactless payment options.

4) Customer Service Will Need To Be Personalized and Empathetic

In many ways, the stresses of 2020 and 2021 have been a shared experience across the nation and world. Many people have found the need for increased compassion and understanding as they cope with the anxiety caused by the events of the last two years. When it comes to choosing where to spend their money, consumers are prioritizing an empathetic, personalized experience in addition to high-quality products and services.

Staffing shortages throughout 2021 found many customers frustrated with a plague of endless phone trees, unresponsive providers, and automated services that made it difficult to speak to a human being. According to Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Research 2021, 25% of 25,000 consumers across 22 countries said many companies disappointed them by not providing enough support and understanding of their needs during challenging times. The report said these customers are ready to abandon brands that don't support their values. Customers want empathy; that comes from understanding them and speaking directly to their needs and concerns while being clear about the business's purpose and vision across all forms of operations, communications, and practices. Meeting employee well-being expectations is crucial to attracting and retaining talent during times of labor shortages. Doing so can help you create a workforce that takes care of your customers.

5) Businesses With Virtual and Digital Services Will Continue To Be in Demand

Not only were many people sequestered at home for long periods of time during 2020 and 2021, but offices, stores, gymnasiums, restaurants, and entertainment venues found they were required to either halt or dramatically reduce in-person service, with many only recently opening back up to normal capacity. As a result, demand for technology and virtual offerings soared. Businesses that were in particularly high demand included:

  1. At-home fitness
  2. Cyber security
  3. Food delivery
  4. Gaming
  5. Remote work software
  6. Virtual events
  7. Medical services
  8. Continuing education

Just as customers are embracing a hybrid approach to their shopping, they will want the same convenience for services. The demand for digital services and digital innovation is sure to continue even after the pandemic subsides. Small business owners and entrepreneurs stand to benefit from this business trend by either pivoting their current practices, expanding their existing business, or launching a new one in one of these in-demand fields.

6) Remote Work Will Continue

Within the span of a few weeks, the pandemic transformed mobile workforces from being an emerging trend to a critical organizational practice that enabled businesses to keep their workers employed and revenue flowing. Employees have long expressed interest in working remotely and have proven to be happier and more productive when given the opportunity to do so. Many business owners have embraced this, and many business owners may plan to continue offering long-term remote work options. One of these options includes the hybrid work space, which seeks to capture the best of both worlds. Business owners continue to have much to gain from incorporating remote work options. Their ability to retain talent and compete for top talent in the future depends on it. How to incorporate and manage a remote workforce for the long-term continues to evolve, and will require small business owners to invest in additional technology and software solutions moving forward.

7) Consumers Will Support Small Businesses

Despite their resiliency and determination throughout the pandemic, many local businesses struggled to stay afloat. Customers noticed and made concerted efforts to channel their spending power to help support local small businesses. To capitalize on this trend, small business owners should consider adopting a local marketing strategy and boosting their social media presence to communicate the business's purpose and values along with high-quality services and products. Supporting local businesses can also help customers be more environmentally conscious and beneficial to their local community.

Using Business Trends of 2022 To Drive Your Success

Small- and medium-sized businesses have demonstrated their fortitude and remarkable ability to adapt as necessary under extraordinary circumstances. Businesses looking to rebound after the past two years should consider emerging small business trends that are likely to continue for the long-term. To meet this imperative, small business owners may be able to outsource many of the duties that require valuable time and resources, such as HR administration, payroll, and assistance with regulatory compliance.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.